Consumer confidence hits 16-year high in boost to economy
By Lucia Mutikani
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. consumer confidence surged to a more than 16-year high in March amid growing labor market optimism while the goods trade deficit narrowed sharply in February, indicating the economy was regaining momentum after faltering at the start of the year.
The economy's strengthening fundamentals were underscored by other data on Tuesday showing further increases in house prices in January. Robust consumer confidence and rising household wealth from the home price gains suggest a recent slowdown in consumer spending, which has hurt growth, is likely temporary.
"We think that real consumption will firm moving forward," said Daniel Silver, an economist at JP Morgan in New York.
"It looks likely that the recent spending data were held down by some temporary factors related to unusually mild weather and a delay in tax refund issuance."
The Conference Board said its consumer confidence index jumped 9.5 points to 125.6 this month, the highest reading since December 2000. Consumers' assessment of both current business and labor market conditions improved sharply in March.
They also anticipated an increase in their incomes. The survey's so-called labor market differential, derived from data about respondents who think jobs are hard to get and those who think jobs are plentiful, was the strongest since 2001.
This measure closely correlates to the unemployment rate in the Labor Department's employment report. It is consistent with continued reduction in slack in the labor market, which is near full employment.
The dollar rose against a basket of currencies, while prices for U.S. government bonds fell slightly. Stocks on Wall Street were trading higher, with Dow Jones industrial average .DJI on track to snap an eight-day losing streak. Continued...